Unknown from India dazzles at Open

On a day when some of the world’s best golfers

href="http://msn.foxsports.com/golf/story/phil-mickelson-others-rip-british-open-playing-conditions-071813"

target="_blank">found plenty to complain about at Muirfield,

an Indian-born golfer whose name I promise you’ve never heard

played the round of his life and, for a time, found himself atop

the

Open

Championship leaderboard on Thursday.

Shiv Kapur birdied six of his first seven holes to put himself

alone in first place — making him the first player with six

par breakers in first seven holes of a round at the Open since Paul

Azinger at St. Andrews in 2000,

target="_blank">according to Elias Sports Bureau — and

after two pars to close, Kapur made the turn at 6-under.

The back nine wasn’t as kind to Kapur, who double-bogeyed

No. 10 to fall out of the lead.

Then an errant tee shot on 14 led to a bogey, dropping him

another stroke. But Kapur,

href="http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/rankings/default.sps?region=world&PageCount=5"

target="_blank">who is No. 210 in the latest World Golf

Ranking, kept his composure and finished the round in a tie for

fourth at 3-under, one shot ahead of world No. 1 Tiger Woods and

two strokes off leader Zach Johnson’s pace.

Now, I don’t think many people were ever expecting Kapur

to hold on to the lead after one round, much less the tournament

— during its coverage, ESPN reported that Kapur was getting

500-to-1 odds at a local betting club, which is stunning that he

had odds on him at all. And that won’t change because the

31-year-old played a surprisingly efficient 18 on Thursday.

But regardless of his long-term chances or the fact that he

slipped some on the back nine, what Kapur did in the first round

was pretty remarkable.

Kapur

href="http://www.purduesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/kapur_shiv00.html"

target="_blank">graduated from Purdue and turned pro in 2004,

and his crowning achievement in the nearly decade since is

href="http://www.golftoday.co.uk/tours/2005/Volvo_Masters_of_Asia/round4report.html"

target="_blank">a win on the Asian Tour in 2005. He has

href="http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/players/playerid=33965/record/index.html"

target="_blank">played in 201 European Tour events since 2005,

and finished in the money in 104 of them, with two second-place

finishes (one in 2007, one in 2010) and seven other Top 10s.

In February of this year, Kapur

href="http://www.europeantour.com/challengetour/season=2013/tournamentid=2013705/"

target="_blank">won the 2013 Gujarat Kensville Challenge on

the Challenge Tour, the second-tier tour in Europe. So

there’s that.

As for this year’s Open, Kapur

href="http://sports.ndtv.com/golf/news/210199-golf-sensational-shiv-kapur-shoots-64-to-qualify-for-british-open"

target="_blank">made the field through local qualifying in

Scotland, and 2013 marks Kapur’s second career entry in the

tournament. He also played in 2006 and

href="http://www.pga.com/openchampionship/2006/scoring/index1.html"

target="_blank">missed the cut after shooting 1-over for the

first two days. Kapur’s six birdies in the first seven holes

Thursday was one more than he had in both 2006 rounds combined.

Kapur was born in New Delhi, and historically, India hasn’t been

a hotbed for PGA Tour talent. Only one Indian-born player has won

on tour (

href="http://msn.foxsports.com/golf/story/Monday-qualifier-Arjun-Atwal-wins-Wyndham-082210"

target="_blank">Arjun Atwal at the Wyndham Championship in

2010 as a Monday qualifier), and an Indian-born player hadn’t

even qualified for the British Open until 1997, when Gaurav Ghei

played (and missed the cut) at Royal Troon.

Overall, seven Indian-born players have competed in major

championships, and the first to make a cut was Jyoti Randhawa, who

finished tied for 27th at the Open Championship at Royal Troon in

2004.

Last year’s Open at Royal Lytham marked the first time two

golfers from India qualified for the weekend at the same major,

when Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri both made the cut. In

making that cut, Singh became the first Indian-born player to have

made a cut in each of golf’s four majors, including a tie for

ninth at the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.

But Kapur could make legitimate history, surpassing Singh as the

most successful Indian golfer on the PGA tour, should he continue

to maintain his pace — however unlikely it may be.

Prior to playing his opening round with Gregory Bourdy and Scott

Jamieson in the third-to-last group of the day, Kapur

href="http://sports.ndtv.com/golf/news/210952-shiv-kapur-ready-for-the-challenge-at-british-open"

target="_blank">played practice rounds with Nick Faldo.

“No one knows Muirfield better than Nick,” Kapur said, adding

that his dream is

href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/golf/top-stories/Shiv-Kapurs-dream-Walking-with-Tiger-on-Sunday/articleshow/21131434.cms"

target="_blank">to play with Woods in the final group on

Sunday.

It seems Kapur might have a point about Faldo, and if he keeps

playing like he has — a mighty task, indeed — his dream

may become a distinct possibility.